HOUSTON (CN) – Texas says a woman is practicing immigration law without a license, telling suckers she can legalize them as religious workers if they join her “church” – and that at least 300 people have fallen for it.
The Texas attorney general sued Yolanda Salazar Perez and her “church,” Nueva Uncion, or the New Anointing Biblical Institute, and three of her alleged cohorts, who are members of her family, in Harris County Court.
Texas claims Salazar and her church advertise, and claim to provide, legal services, including work visas, temporary residency, religious worker benefits, and legal counseling and preparation of forms, though she is not an attorney.
Also sued are Bruno R. Perez, Julie Diana Perez Cortez, and Lucina Perez Lopez, all, like Salazar Perez, of Houston.
At least 300 people have “apparently become members” of Salazar’s so-called church, the state says.
In submitting forms seeking immigration relief, Salazar “falsely claims the consumers have been a religious worker for at least two years and have been a member of the New Anointing Biblical Institute/Church for at least two years,” and falsely claims that they will be “working as a minister,” the attorney general says.
Salazar falsely claims to have worked for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the state says. She “refers to her false work experience to give consumers the impression that she is authorized to provide immigration services,” the attorney general says. But even if she had held those jobs, which she has not, it would not give her the right to work as an immigration attorney, the state adds.
Salazar and family “explicitly rely on religious appeals” to lure in clients, the attorney general says.
“Perez entices consumers to become members of her church. Perez then prepares immigration forms for some consumers in which she falsely claims they are seeking classification as a ‘Special Immigrant Religious Worker’ and will be ‘working as a minister.’ Perez also falsely claims the consumers have been a religious worker for at least two years and have been a member of the New Anointing Biblical Institute/Church for at least two years,” according to the complaint.
(Although the state refers to Salazar Perez as “Perez,” Spanish surnames are, in this order, patronymic and matronymic, so the common “last name” is the first last name, or the name of the person’s father. Both last names are used only in formal situations – such as lawsuits – but the proper last name is actually the first one: in this case, Salazar.)
Texas wants Salazar Perez and her co-defendants to disgorge all their ill-gotten gains, and fines of $20,000 for each deceptive trade violation, and $250,000 for each time she victimized a senior citizen.